GURPS In Your Pocket

by Bob Portnell

Art by Keith Johnson

I've been a GURPS fiend for a decade. Growing up playing Steve Jackson's first roleplaying design, The Fantasy Trip, conditioned me to be well-disposed to anything with few stats and no classes or levels. But lately, I've missed the fast-flow give-and-take of the old TFT days, not to mention the speedy character creation rules. I've found GURPS' detail and realism don't bend easily to these desires.

Enter Pocket Fantasy (PF) from Plaid Rabbit Productions. Lo and behold! A system designed to encourage creativity while retaining simplicity. I was hooked right away. And while the crunchable numbers are of quite different flavors, the broad outline of PF is very much like GURPS, making conversion easy. Here are guidelines for converting GURPS characters to Pocket Fantasy or vice-versa.

Note: Pocket Fantasy is based on the PlainLabel Roleplaying System by MC+ Creations. Many of these conversion principles will apply to future PlainLabel-based games.

Character Concept

It helps to take a few minutes to write down a capsule summary of the character's history and personality. You might be surprised to discover how much this person has changed since you started play. Remember, too, as you convert that you're not changing the character; you're just describing him with a different set of game rules.

Core Numbers

Both GURPS and PF use four attributes representing physical strength, agility, health and intelligence; only the names have been changed to protect copyrights. The scales and die roll conventions are different. Also, we are told (in Pocket Warrior) that an "average" Stat-5 character "is perfectly capable of handling himself -- better than the common man on the street" and "a character of stat 8 or above will stand out . . . as especially gifted." Combining the probabilities and philosophies, we come up with:

PF Stat GURPS Attribute    PF Stat GURPS Attribute
21 to 4712 or 13
35 to 7814 or 15
48 or 9916 to 18
510 or 111019 or 20
611 or 12

Where two values are offered, pick the one that seems appropriate for the character; don't just greedily take the higher value. Keep proportions in mind, too. If Olaf The Awful Hungry has (ST 12, DX 11) think about converting him to (S 7, C 6) or (S 6, C 5) instead of (S 6, C 6).

GURPS In Your Pocket

Inborn Traits

GURPS has Advantages and Disadvantages and Quirks; PF has Abilities and Disabilities. They're all the same thing: inborn traits which make the character unusually versatile or unusually limited.

A Rule (or two) of Thumb: Most 5- or 10-point GURPS traits correspond to 1-Point traits in PF; a 15-point or bigger GURPS trait will be a 2-Pointer in PF. 3-point PF traits are beyond human ken and correspond to very high value (or very inhuman) GURPS traits.

Many traits have similar names and roles, so converting is easy. Literacy Advantage converts to Literacy Ability. Hard of Hearing and Deafness Disadvantages become Hearing Impairment and Deafness Disabilities.

A Quirk should convert to a note on a PF character sheet. Play it, don't Point it! Some Quirks or low-value Advantages or Disadvantages may become 0-Point PF traits, adding variety without really affecting point balance. This is fine. But you're allowed only one each of 0-Point Abilities and Disabilities in Pocket Fantasy.

What if you don't have enough Disabilities to equal -40 points in Disadvantages? Don't worry about it. You may not need all those extra Disadvantages; if you do, you can add ones that make sense for the character.

Naturally, there are exceptions to these rules:

Just Lucky, I Guess: In PF, Luck is a minor stat, an accumulation of reward points which can be used to modify die rolls. In GURPS, Luck is an Advantage allowing rerolls on a periodic basis. All PF characters start with 15 Luck points -- even ones converted from GURPS! Translate each level of Luck Advantage as an extra 15 Luck points. Going the other way, subtract 15 pts. from the PF character's current Luck points, then give him one level of Luck Advantage for each full 15 Luck points remaining.

On The Dodge: In GURPS, Dodge is a figured stat. In PF, it's a Skill, and much more generous. Either way, you can't convert directly between them. You might equate higher-than-default Dodge Skill with Enhanced Dodge, or martial arts proficiency, or Combat Reflexes.

Combative Nature: In GURPS, Combat Reflexes is an Advantage which adds to Defense rolls. PF has nothing like this. Pocket Fantasy does have Combat Awareness, a Skill which at high levels gives bonuses to Initiative. The GURPS equivalent is Tactics Skill. In converting, let one rating level from Combat Awareness equal Tactics Skill; let two rating levels equal Combat Reflexes. A PF character Familiar with Combat Awareness would have Tactics Skill; but a Capable character might have improved Tactics Skill or Combat Reflexes.

Senseless: The GURPS Sense Rolls are, in PF, a roll vs. the "Notice/Observe" Personal Skill. Convert the Acute Vision or Acute Hearing traits as above; if the GURPS character had Alertness, give the Pocket Fantasy version at least a Capable rating in Notice/Observe (or vice versa). GURPS Danger Sense is worth one level of Notice/Observe and one level of Combat Awareness. Note there are no "Taste/Smell" features in PF.

Mentally Deficient: Most of the Mental Disadvantages (Delusions, Codes of Honor, Compulsive Behaviors, Vows) are covered by the Compulsion/Obsession/Mania Disability. Similarly, Mild and Severe Phobias become Fear/Phobia/Terror (a truly severe form). Use the Rule of Thumb above, plus the game descriptions of the traits, plus what seems appropriate for the character.

Socially Bankrupt: PF does not (as of Pocket Warrior) have Disability analogs to the Duty, Patron, Enemy, Ally, Dependent, or Secret Disadvantages. The unreleased Tomorrow's Heroes is a superhero game using the same PlainLabel mechanics as PF. As of this writing, Tomorrow's Heroes includes the Sponsor Ability (analog of the Patron Advantage), and the Appearance, Enemy and Secret Disabilities. If you need these now and the GM allows it, use the Rule of Thumb above to convert costs.

Many of the "self-imposed" Disadvantages have no corresponding Disabilities; ditto for the GURPS derived stat Will and Reaction modifiers. This is deliberate; the PF designers think such things should just be played; let them be Disabilities only if the GM can use them to get the characters into serious trouble.


Skills are just as easy to convert, but take a little more thinking. Instead of working from a table (as for Core Numbers) or from effect (as for Inborn Traits), to convert Skills we need to take notice of how much effort the character has invested into the Skill. That is, we convert based on points spent and not on actual Skill level. So:

PF Skill GURPS Skill
Rating (cost) Points Spent
Familiar (1) 1/2 to 2
Capable (2) 1 to 4
Professional (4) 4 to 8
Expert (8) more than 8

So, if Alex the Ranger (GURPS) has DX 13 and Shortsword 16, he's spent 16 points on the skill. DX 13 becomes C 7, and a Expert Level Sword Skill would take value 19. If the values seem wrong, tweak them a bit. The goal is to get the character right, not to rigidly follow formulae. In this example, I thought a PF Sword-19 was just too good to be true for Alex, so I changed it to Professional level, resulting in Sword-15.

The PF Skill list is smaller and more general than in GURPS, so you may find yourself changing skill names. Don't fret. Remember you're playing the same character, just with a different game.

The Skill Point Pool: In PF, starting characters have a limited allotment of points to spend on Skills. Since this isn't a starting character, we can safely assume that the character has gained sufficient experience (in a PF framework) to justify all those Skill points we've converted.


The Pocket Sorceror, the magical core rules for Pocket Fantasy, is out and available at the Pocket Fantasy web site.

GURPS has Magical Aptitude (aka Magery) Advantage, which costs points depending on the quality of bonus. GURPS Spells are learned just like Skills, and used just like Skills, too. Each Spell can be learned at a different level, within rules for prerequisites and the like.

PF has Magic Skill. Your Magic Skill determines: your magical energy reserve, the number and difficulty of spells you can learn, and your task roll for all spellcasting. PF Spells are purchased with Skill Points, but have no skill level or rating; Average and easier Spells cost 1 Point; Above Average and more difficult Spells cost 2 Points. All rolls to cast spells are made against Magic Skill.

To convert Magery to Magic Skill: Let Magery-1 or -2 correspond to a Magic Skill of "Capable"; and Magery-3 to Magic Skill of "Professional." (There is no "Expert" level in Magic Skill, and "Familiar" is too low to accurately reflect most GURPS mages.) This may result is a shockingly low value of Skill; a PF character with average I and Magic Skill at the Capable rating has a skill value of only 9! But he also will only be learning and casting low-difficulty spells, which include their own bonuses to skill.

Spell Conversion is easy: Convert on Effects, just as you did for Inborn Traits. GURPS Fireball matches up with the PF Fireshot spell, for example. GURPS magic requires a logical hierarchy of foundation spells be purchased, but many of the prerequisites will drop out during conversion; or if going from PF to GURPS, you may need to purchase many minor spells to satisfy the prerequisites. Also, Many GURPS spells will be covered by a single PF spell. GURPS has Control Mammal, Control Reptile, Control Congressman . . . PF has Control Creature, which works on any non-sapient.

To create a PF Spell from a GURPS model, set the Difficulty level equal to one-half the number of straight-line prerequisite spells, rounding up. If a variable point effect exists (like damage), base it on the Difficulty level: Difficulty 1 has a maximum result of 5 points; Difficulty 2 has a 10 maximum; Difficulty 3 a 20 maximum; and Difficulty 4 a 30 maximum. This may vary, of course -- PF Greater Healing is a Difficulty 4 spell, but only has a 20-point maximum effect. Use existing PF spells as guides for area or range effects.

PF also has a Spell Targeting Skill, the analog of the GURPS Spell Throwing Skills. Convert between these as you would with any normal skill.

Material Goods

Equipment: Make a list of items from the old character, and "acquire" them in the new game. Use the new game stats: weight, cost, damages, the lot. If some special equipment must come over (your fighter's elven-mail shirt, for example), consult with the GM on the best way to handle the situation.

Money: Starting Wealth is an irrelevant concept here, since (say it with me, now) this isn't a starting character! Allow fair translation of wealth and goods from one game to the other, then use the new game for determining reward values, monthly cost of living, and so on.

Secondary Figures: Never try to convert secondary stats, like Speed or Hit Points; always calculate these using the rules of the game to which you are converting.

The Big Picture

Pocket Fantasy characters converted to GURPS may seem sketchy to the experienced GURPS hand. You'll probably want to add a few Skills, or tweak the Attributes, or add a Disadvantage, etc. Feel free! Going the other way, some of your GURPS Skills might be jettisoned, unneeded in the minimalist PF format. All of this is just fine! This is your character and you should do anything reasonable to see that the game correctly represents said character. Remember, without the character, there is no role, and no roleplay!

Sample Conversions

Here are sample conversions of the "sample" characters used in each game's rules: GURPS rogue Dai Blackthorn as a Pocket Fantasy character, and PF's Gerald Haldane in GURPS terms

Dai Blackthorn

S 4 C 8 H 6 I 6

Acute Hearing (1)

Enemy (Thieves' Guild) (1)
Financial Restrictions (1)

Convince F/7
Notice/Observe F/7
Combat Awareness F/9
Knife C/12
Lockpicking C/12
Pickpocket C/12
Sword C/12
Stealth F/9
Streetwise C/10
Traps F/7

Notes: Dai's only two skill points over the pool he would normally get as a created PF character . . . plus he compares favorably with sample thievish NPCs, so we feel pretty good about this conversion.

Gerald Haldane

ST 14 DX 9 IQ 11 HT 12

Advantages: Literacy; Comfortable Wealth

Disadvantage: Vow: Harass the Black Baron (-10)

Quirks: Hard-G Gerald; Admires Books and Learning

Skills: Shortsword-10; Blacksmith-12; Armoury-12; Riding (Horse)-9; Research-11; Naturalist-10; Boxing-9; Savoir-Faire-12.

Total Points: 95

Notes: It would probably be appropriate to fill Gerald out with Social Status-2 (he is a lesser noble, after all) and a self-imposed disadvantage like Overconfidence. A few other skills and quirks would help round out the character for GURPS play.

Article publication date: July 30, 1999

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